Neck Strain: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?

Neck Strain: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?

October 23, 2013

What Is It?

Neck strain refers to any kind of inflammation in the neck, caused by straining the neck muscles. Our necks are incredibly flexible, providing support for the head as well as a great range of motion, but this also makes the neck susceptible to stiffness or strains. This type of injury can range from extremely mild to very serious.

What Are The Major Symptoms?

The primary symptom of neck strain, as with any muscle or tendon strain, is pain and stiffness in the affected area – in this case, the neck. Neck strains are often particularly stiff, and you may experience limited movement, such as the inability to turn your head very far in a particular direction. Headaches, especially tension headaches, and shoulder pain are also associated with a neck strain.

What Causes Neck Strain?

There are numerous ways that you might experience a strain to the muscles in the neck. Some of the most common causes are:

– Spending too much time in an awkward or uncomfortable position, such as hunched over a computer or driving for long distances. Spending a long time talking on the phone, especially with the headset wedged between your ear and shoulder, is a very common cause for neck strain.

– Sleeping in a poor position, especially one that results in your neck leaning to far to one side. Sleeping while travelling, such as in an airplane seat or in a car, is notorious for causing this type of neck strain. Having a pillow that is too thick, too thin, or does not provide correct support, can also be a cause of neck strain.

– Carrying a heavy object can strain the whole back and spine, including the neck. Heavy suitcases and shoulder bags can also strain the neck.

– An injury that involved sudden movement, like a fall or a car accident. Neck injuries from car crashes, often referred to as whiplash injuries, can be especially severe forms on neck strain.

What Are the Treatment Options For a Strained Neck?

Neck strains are very common injuries, and in many cases are also minor. However, if your neck strain was caused by any kind of accident, or lasts more than two days, it is always best to see a doctor immediately.

For pain or stiffness that only lasts a day or two, a combination of applying cold and heat to the affected area plus over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can be very effective. Home exercise therapy is very good for loosening up a stiff neck, relieving tension, and strengthening the muscles in the neck, helping prevent future injuries.

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